Even the biggest A-list movie stars needed a bit part to catch a director’s eye before landing the leading role. It seems strange to see these high-profile celebrities in the background, but we love digging up the old footage and seeing the actors when they had baby faces.
Here are five of our favorite actors before they were famous. They all took the adage “There are no small roles only small actors” to heart. Because of that, they became superstars.
1. Alexander Skarsgård (Zoolander)
Most people first took notice of Skarsgård as the hunky vampire character Eric Northman in True Blood. The talented and very pretty Swede made his major-movie debut in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander as the catty male model Meekus.
Skarsgård has gone on to star in dozens of movies, including Zoolander 2. Some of his most prominent roles have been in The Legend of Tarzan (as Tarzan), Generation Kill (as Brad Colbert), and Big Little Lies (as Perry Wright). It’s hard to believe it took so long for Skarsgård to break into the mainstream, but we’re glad he did.
2. Kevin Bacon (Animal House)
We knew this ubiquitous actor has had an unusually long and prolific career considering the existence of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Still, Animal House seems like it would predate the actor’s working life by a few years.
Almost 40 years ago, the John Belushi flick offered Bacon his first movie role as Chip Diller, a member of the Deltas’ rival fraternity. Bacon’s career had a couple of lulls since then, but he’s always bounced back to nab more gigs. He’s recently had starring roles in the hit TV shows The Following and I Love Dick.
3. Seth Rogen (Donnie Darko)
Imagining Rogen as a preppy bully is difficult now that he’s become known as a stoner icon. That is how this Canadian star broke into Hollywood though.
After his first show Freaks and Geeks got cancelled, Rogen landed a small part in Donnie Darko as Ricky Danforth, a typical prep school meathead.
Jake Gyllenhaal stole the show in the cult classic, but Rogen used it as a stepping stone to nab more comedic roles. He’s gone on to have a hugely successful career as an actor, a writer, and a director.
4. Jake Gyllenhaal (City Slickers)
Speaking of Gyllenhaal, he had an interesting early career as well. You may not remember him in City Slickers since he was overshadowed by the legendary Billy Crystal, but the 1991 comedy is where the young actor got his start.
His career sputtered for the next decade (he was just a teenager, so we’ll cut him a break) until he starred in the aforementioned Donnie Darko. Since then he’s been a leading man in Zodiac, Source Code, Nightcrawler, and more. The 36-year-old continues to have his pick of challenging and prominent roles.
5. Adam Scott (Star Trek: First Contact)
Scott will always be known for his straight-laced brand of comedy that he showcased in Parks and Recreation and Step Brothers. But before he was cracking up audiences, he was taking under-appreciated bit parts for many years.
One of those was the now hard to imagine role of an officer in Star Trek: First Contact. The part certainly would have been a dream come true for his nerdy Parks and Rec character Ben Wyatt.